We began our last day in Budapest by packing and checking out of the Airbnb after which we split up, Joc and J.T. taking the bags to put into storage while I went off on an adventure to see Communist statues. A little outside of downtown Budapest is an open-air museum, dedicated to monumental statues and sculpted plaques from Hungary’s Communist period, which lasted from 1949 to 1989. Known as Memento Park, it was designed by the Hungarian architect Ákos Eleőd and opened in 1993. Today, there are over 40 statues and monuments, in addition to two exhibition spaces.
As it was not in walking distance, and no trams went that far out of the downtown area, I believed my only option for getting there would be to figure out Budapest’s public bus system. Worried about possible mistakes, as I would be navigating everything alone, I spent the morning looking up different ways to get to the park and luckily came across the perfect solution for me. Every day at 11:00 (and 3:00 in July/August), there is a Memento Park bus that leaves from Deák Square, located right in the city center, that takes you to the museum and back, the price (€16) including admission to the museum. The trip takes about 30 minutes and features interesting commentary about the park. Once you arrive, you are given approximately an hour-and-a-half to explore, which I found to be just enough to be able to see everything, but not be bored with tons of extra waiting time. The only downside to this option is that the bus can be hard to find. I had to ask about five different people, including two tourist information centers, before I found the bus about two minutes before 11:00.
Below are a few of my favorite monuments with the captions above each picture in paragraph form to allow more explanation.Located in the entrance wall of Memento Park is a sculpture of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Designed by Segesdi György in 1971, it was made from granite from Mauthausen, a quarry in Austria that was formerly used as a concentration camp during World War II. The original location of this piece was V. ker. Jászai Mari square, at the main entrance of the Communist Party Headquarters.
Known as the Liberating Soviet Soldier, this bronze sculpture was created by Kisfaludi Strobl Zsigmond in 1958. It was formerly located on Gellért Hill as a part of the Liberation Monument.
Also created by Kisfaludi Strobl Zsigmond, the bronze Hungarian-Soviet Friendship Memorial stood in Pataki square (today Szent László square).
Another Liberation Monument, this limestone structure was carved in 1971 and located at Thököly street 141.
Created out of limestone by László Péter in 1951, the Soviet Heroic Memorial was formerly found at Széchenyi hegy, Rege park.
This statue of Georgi Dimitrov was sculpted out of bronze by Valentin Sztarcsev in 1983 and located in Dimitrov square (today Fővám square). Dimitrov (1882-1949) was the first Communist leader of Bulgaria, from 1946 to 1949.
A memorial celebrating Béla Kun, Jenő Landler and Tibor Szamuely, it was created by three artists in 1967, Olcsai-Kiss Zoltán, Herczeg Klára, and Farkas Aladár, and formerly located in Kun Béla square (today Ludovika square).
The first of these figures, Béla Kun (1886-1938) was the founder of the Hungarian Communist Party in Budapest in November 1918. He later proposed the merger of the Social Democrat and Communist parties, creating the Hungarian Socialist Party and founding the Hungarian Soviet Republic in March 1919. This republic was short-lived, Kun going into exile after the Romania invaded in the same year. During the Great Purge of the late 1930s, Kun was accused of Trotskyism, arrested, and sentenced to death.
Jenő Landler (1875-1928), the middle figure, was a Hungarian Communist leader who participated in the Hungarian Revolution of 1919. After the fall of the Soviet Republic, he emigrated to Austria where he continued his leadership before being exiled to Cannes where he died.
The last of the men featured here, Tibor Szamuely (1890-1919) was a Hungarian politician and journalist who was the Deputy People’s Commissar of War and People’s Commissar of Public Education during the Hungarian Soviet Republic. While making an illegal border crossing into Austria, following the fall of the Republic, Szamuely was shot, either by his own hand or by border guards.
Created by an unknown Soviet sculptor in 1958, this bronze statue of Lenin was located at the main entrance of Csepel, Vasmű (Iron Works).
A bronze bust of József Kalamár (1895-1956) from 1957, the sculpture was created by Tamás Gyenes and was formerly found in Kalamár József street (today Szent István street). Kalamár was a member of both the Czech and Hungarian Communist parties.
The Béla Kun Memorial is a large monument made out of bronze, chromium, and copper. It was built in 1986 by Imre Varga and was located in Vérmező-park. The whole piece features Kun in the center, waving his hat as he gives a speech above a crowd of soldiers, presumably on a street given the addition of a lamppost.
Designed by Makrisz Agamemnon in 1968, The Hungarian Fighters’ in the Spanish International Brigades’ Memorial was made of bronze and stone and came from Néphadsereg square (today Honvéd square). Duringthe Spanish Civil War (1936-39), the Spanish International Brigades accepted foreign volunteers to fight on the Republican side against the Nationalist forces.
This giant bronze sculpture known as the Republic of Councils Monument was constructed by Kiss István in 1969 and was placed on Dózsa György street (Felvonulási tér).
Related was the stone Republic of Councils Pioneer Memorial Plaque, created in 1959 by Ambrózi Sándor and Stöckert Károly and located on Pasaréti street 191-193.
Another larger than life bronze statue, Captain Steinmetz was constructed by Mikus Sándor in 1958 and could be found on Vöröshadsereg street (today Üllői street). Miklós Steinmetz (1913-1944) was a Hungarian-born Soviet Red Army Captain. He fought on the Republican side of the Spanish Civil War before becoming a captain in the Red Army during World War II. During the Battle of Budapest in December 1944, he delivered the ultimatum which demanded Germans and Hungarians to surrender. He was killed before the Soviet takeover of the city, when his car ran over a mine on the Üllői avenue in Pestszentlőrinc (today part of Budapest).
In addition to monuments and sculptures, there was a Trabant, the famous East German automobile, located by the exit of the park. Produced from 1957-1990, the car was dubbed “spark plug with a roof” and is often regarded as a symbol of East Germany.
Outside of the main park is a replica of Stalin’s Boots, which became a symbol of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 after the statue of Stalin was pulled from its pedestal the same year.
After finishing my tour of the museum, which included watching old training tapes for Soviet spies, and being dropped off at Deák Square, I walked over the Danube back to the Buda Castle sector of the city to meet up with Joc and J.T. On the way, I got to see some new sites including the Fisherman’s Bastion. Built from 1895 to 1902, it is a terrace featuring seven towers to represent the seven Magyar tribes that settled in the Carpathian basin in 896. The name comes from the Fisherman’s Guild, who used to protect this part of the city.
Between the Bastion and the Matthias Church is a bronze statue of Stephen I of Hungary, mounted on a horse. Erected in 1906, the pedestal was made by Alajos Stróble, based on the plans of Frigyes Schulek, in a Neo-Romanesque style, with episodes illustrating the King’s life. J.T. likened it to something out of Lord of the Rings. A Roman Catholic Church, Matthias Church was constructed in the late Gothic style in the second half of the 14th century and extensively restored in the late 19th.
Though we had a little trouble re-connecting, we eventually met up at a restaurant for lunch where I once again ordered chicken paprikash. I must admit I fell in love with this classic Hungarian dish and after returning to Salzburg I had some cravings for the hearty meal.
After lunch, we walked to one train station to get our luggage, and then other to catch our afternoon train back to Salzburg. On the way we made one last stop at a donut store called Box Donut, named for the shape of their pastries. J.T. and I split a box of six, the flavours including lavender, Oreo, and cinnamon apple. A few of these were filled with flavoured creams in addition to the icing on top.
Having bought first-class tickets on-sale, we enjoyed some luxury on the return, the reclining seats being my personal favourite. We passed the time eating, playing card games, and sleeping, a good conclusion to a great trip.